Following a strict vegan diet can be a challenge. The good news is there are many types of food that fit a vegan diet if the ingredients are chosen carefully. Choosing vegan dishes does not have to be an exercise in the bland and tasteless. Vegan cooking can be healthful, filling and delicious. Pasta actually works great as a vegan option. You just have to think outside the box and focus on fresh and bright ingredients.
Summer Pesto Pasta
Pesto sauce is a great way to enjoy vegan pasta without having sauce anxiety. Pesto sauce has a robust flavor and often doesn’t need other strong ingredients to make it great. It is best to make your own basic pesto using fresh basil, olive oil and pine nuts, but basil from a jar can work in a pinch.
This dish can range from very basic to more complex and hearty depending on the ingredients you choose to add. The most basic version of the pasta keeps things light with just the pesto sauce and halved cherry tomatoes, but you can add a variety of other vegetable ingredients as well. Eggplant, squash, bell peppers and watercress all pair well with pesto. You can mix and match as you please.
• Basil pesto (prepared fresh or from jar)
• Short or long pasta noodles like spaghetti or fettuccine
• Cherry tomatoes
• Eggplant (optional)
• Bell peppers (optional)
• Watercress (optional)
• Olive or avocado oil
1. Set water for noodles to boil and cook noodles according to package directions.
2. Put sauce in a pan and add cherry tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes have softened.
3. If adding eggplant and bell peppers, cut into bite-sized pieces and cook in a separate pan using olive or avocado oil. Eggplant should be cooked until golden brown. Bell peppers may be cooked until softened or may be only lightly cooked for a fresher taste and crunch.
4. Add cooked noodles to pan with sauce and ingredients and combine well.
5. You can finish this dish with the classic touch: a leaf or two of fresh basil on top. Another fine, if slightly more expensive, finish is toasted pine nuts.
Vegetable Red Sauce with Mushrooms
Tomato based sauces like marinara are your next best friend when it comes to vegan pasta options. Classic tomato sauces are not generally as strong as pesto sauces, and the taste may be more familiar. Vegetables are the stars yet again. You will forget about ever having to add meat to your spaghetti once you know how to make the right vegetable complements. Take your time with the sauce and let the flavors develop.
• 1 jar plain tomato sauce
• 1 bunch garlic
• 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
• Long or short curly pasta like spaghetti or rotini
• Squash of any color
• Black olives
• 1 can white beans (optional)
1. Add tomato sauce to pot over medium heat.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the top off the garlic bunch and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 30–35 minutes. Garlic should turn golden brown and mushy. Extract the soft and mushy garlic with a spoon and add to sauce pot. Add herbs, pepper and other desired spices.
3. Mushrooms are the star of this spaghetti dish. The soft texture and earthy flavors of mushrooms make them one of the best replacements for meat in a pasta dish. While you can let mushrooms simmer in the sauce, their flavor becomes sharper if they are fried in oil first and then added to the sauce.
4. Cut squash into bite-sized pieces and add to sauce. Add black olives to sauce whole or halved. Add can of white beans if desired. Allow sauce to simmer for 30 minutes or longer with added ingredients.
Thai Curry Noodles
When hunting down satisfying pasta dishes, it is important to think beyond the confines of Italy. Many Asian dishes can be considered pasta when noodles are a key ingredient in the dish. The advantage of Asian recipes is that many of them are naturally vegan and don’t have to be altered at all.
Curry based sauces are a great way to add flavor to a dish, and they complement vegetables well. A delicious and creamy vegan curry sauce is also a snap to make. The sauce is based on coconut milk, so you are getting creaminess without worrying about dairy. Curry is also an especially forgiving sauce when it comes to cooking vegetables. Anything from carrots and broccoli to peppers and green beans work well in this dish.
• 1 package of rice noodles
• 1 can coconut milk
• 1–2 tablespoons of red or green curry paste
• Frozen or fresh vegetable blend
• Salt to taste
1. Empty can of coconut milk into pan and reduce over medium heat until volume is reduced by half or desired thickness is reached.
2. Add curry paste to taste. This determines the level of spiciness in the dish. More than two tablespoons will be very spicy.
3. You can use frozen or fresh vegetables for this dish. A packaged blend of mixed and precut vegetables is easy and just as healthful as using fresh. Since the vegetables are simmered in the sauce, there is basically no end difference between them. Allow vegetables to simmer in the sauce for at least 20 minutes, longer if you can. Add salt to the dish only during the last few minutes of cooking.
4. Bring a pot of water to boil large enough to submerge the package of rice noodles. Turn off the heat and add the noodles to the water, stir gently for a few minutes and then remove. It is very easy to overcook rice noodles. Follow the package directions if different.
Pasta is an amazing canvas on which to craft a variety of tasty vegan dishes. Your body will thank you for providing light and fresh ingredients, and so will your taste buds. Try these delicious recipes or visit a restaurant like Ynot Italian to satisfy your pasta craving.
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